Feast or Famine Islanders – Looking Forward

posted in: NHL | 0

cropped-IMG_0073.jpg All of Isles Nation was, obviously, disappointed with the seven game series loss to the Caps. As with any seven game series there are a lot of moments that you could point to and say “if only”, including throwing away some points at the end of the season that would have given the Isles home ice in Game 7, but as I said Monday night, the bottom line is that the Islanders weren’t good enough to pull it off.

There has been a lot of discussion about who was at fault for the lack of offense in the final game, and whether a save or better defense would have helped but for me, the series was lost with two facts:

  • The Islanders scored 7 goals in Games 1-2. They proceeded to score a total of 8 in the next 5 games. You aren’t going to win many games scoring 1.60 goals per game. That they managed to win two of those games says a lot about the defensive play and goaltending.
  • A contributing factor to that previous point, the o-fer on the powerplay. Zero goals in the entire series on the PP.

Ultimately, the series was lost for the same reason that the Islanders have lost games for the last few seasons, inconsistent scoring. How will they address that going forward? I’m not sure. Looking ahead to next season, there’s obvious room for some of the younger guys to improve, but I don’t know where much will change with the lineup, to be honest.

The Forwards:

Going into 2015-2016 the Islanders have 11 forwards under contract, plus RFA’s in Brock Nelson and Anders Lee, who I assume will be signed. That’s 13 forwards under contract. I could see letting UFA’s Kennedy and Boulton walking away, but I’m not sure what happens with pending UFA Colin MacDonald. I’d like to see the Isles keep him, but if he gets a chance to sign a one-way deal elsewhere, I wouldn’t blame him.

With 13 guys already in, I don’t see the Isles making a big splash for a free agent forward. I’m not sure who I’d want them to sign anyway. Yes, they could use a true first line winger to play with Tavares and Okposo. I just don’t see where that fits in the salary cap. (More on that later.) With 13 guys signed, and Michael Dal Colle probably ready to compete for a job as well, there isn’t much flexibility. I could see Dal Colle getting  real shot to play on the first line and PP in training camp. It’s obvious they need some more offense, and Dal Colle is skilled. Is he ready? Or is Josh Ho-Sang ready?

The Defense:

For all the criticism of the defense this year, some of it deserved, they actually played pretty well the last couple of games against Washington, with a makeshift lineup. I give them credit for that. There are 5 defensemen under contract for 2015-2016, with Visovsky a pending UFA and Donovan and Hickey as pending UFAs.

This will be an interesting offseason here. Lubo has talked of coming back for one more year, do the Isles have space for him? How much will it cost? A lot will depend on how ready some of the young guys look in training camp. If Pulock, Reinhart and Mayfield are going to make the team, those pending free agents might have to be cleared out of the way. If they aren’t ready, you might need those guys back, or some other free agent signing. There are some interesting names of the UFA list at defense, but no one who really blows me away, and given the market price for free agent defense, will the Isles be players there? My assumption is Green, Martin, and Meszaros are out of the price range, but I would be interested in someone like Johnny Oduya or Barrett Jackman, maybe?

Again, it’s going to come down to how ready are the kids?

Goalies:

Halak is under contract. Neuvirth is a UFA, Poulin an RFA.

Is Kevin Poulin ready to be a quality NHL backup? Do we believe it? Do we count on that? Is Garth Snow going to be out looking for his backup goalie again come July 1? I think he will be. Again, there are some interesting names on the UFA market, but no one that blows me away. The ones that intrigue me the most, will probably be looking for starting gigs. Brooklyn is not that gig.

The Salary Cap:

Believe it or not, this is another reason the Islanders may not be all that active in the free agent market. They already have $54 million of their cap committed to next season, with UFA status looming for Okposo, Neilsen, Martin and Grabner the next season, along with Strome and Cizikas reaching RFA status and getting a raise then as well. That $54 million does not include whatever they end up paying for Lee and Nelson, their defense and backup goalie. Could the Isles walk away from the last year of Grabner’s contract to make room up front and in the budget? Could they try and deal Bailey’s contract? The Islanders will actually be in the unfamiliar position of having to make some decisions based on leaving themselves enough cap flexibility to deal with these contracts. Having some of the young kids make the lineup will help.

But are they ready to make the next step? Are the guys with NHL experience ready to improve, and are the guys at Bridgeport and juniors ready to make the lineup of a playoff caliber team?

We will see what happens in Brooklyn!

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